Municipal Election 2014

Clark Reverses Position on All-Day GO Trains, Light Rail Transit

Three years ago, Brad Clark was adamant that there was no business case for all-day GO train service and that Hamilton would be crazy not to hold the Province to their promise of full capital funding for LRT.

By Ryan McGreal
Published September 11, 2014

It's amazing how much Brad Clark's positions on all-day GO Train service and light rail transit (LRT) have changed since he decided to run for mayor.

Just three years ago, Clark was adamant that there was no business case for all-day GO train service and that Hamilton would be crazy not to hold the Province to their promise of full capital funding for LRT.

Now he has reversed his position on both issues.

All-Day GO Train Service

The Province promised to build two new GO train stations in Hamilton - at James Street North and Centennial Parkway - with all-day GO train service to start some time after 2015.

In a September 2011 interview with RTH, Clark claimed there was no business case for all-day GO train service. "It's very costly and there's no business case for it. It's a commuter train service, with less volume in off-hours. It's very expensive."

The former Transportation Minister under Premier Mike Harris said, "There has not been an economic development case for expanding all-day GO Transit service. If it's such a great win, why didn't GO Transit do this in the last 20 years? They have looked at it time and time again. They have to justify the service based on demand."

But today, the mayoral candidate issued a news release praising the GO stations and calling for another all-day GO Train station at Fifty Road in Winona. "GO is moving in the right direction with the new GO station downtown and work underway at Centennial Parkway in East Hamilton".

Clark wants to build GO ridership in Winona with a GO bus station that will compete with the existing GO bus station on Casablanca Road in Grimsby.

LRT Political Football

Clark also took the opportunity to make the city's LRT plan into a political football by drumming up fear that Hamilton might lose out on the planned GO expansion, an echo of Bob Bratina's oft-repeated claim that Hamilton would have to choose between LRT and all-day GO service.

Clark's release quotes him saying, "[T]he devil is in the details since the Winona station depends on ridership and potentially the City's unaffordable LRT reaching Fifty Road."

Clark plans to insist to the Province that "LRT expansion to Fifty Road is not a pre-condition to an east end GO station in Stoney Creek."

This follow's Clark's recent coming-out against LRT after hinting that he no longer supported the plan he voted for last year.

In opposing LRT, Clark made a series of totally unsupported claims about how much the City will have to pay in capital and operating costs, completely ignoring the published reports by the City and Province and alluding to 'new information' from unspecified sources. RTH contacted Clark to ask about his sources but we did not receive any response.

Again, contrast the Clark of three years ago, who compared LRT with the City's then-recent wrangling with the Province over Pan Am Games funding:

It is incredibly frustrating that we were promised this commitment and now this Council has jumped through hoops to get the Pan Am Games money, and the entire argument was, "Why would you turn down 56 percent of the money?" Well, I'm curious: why are we going to look the other way on LRT when 100 percent of the money was promised by senior levels of government? I don't get it.

In recent months, Clark has claimed he is "reading the tea leaves" and believes the Province doesn't want to fund LRT.

The Brad Clark of 2011 saw that as a leadership challenge, not an excuse to capitulate. "One would think we'd be fighting tooth and nail to get the Province to keep their promise to pay 100 percent of the capital cost for LRT."

The Clark who now believes claims we will end up on the hook for "millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars" in capital costs for LRT felt differently three years ago:

People in the media kept saying to me, Who really believes the Province was ever going to pay 100 percent? I said I believe it, because they're doing it in Toronto. So it's to our own neglect that we're not looking at what's happening in other municipalities, because Toronto asked for it and they got it.

Since then, he has gone from decrying political cynicism to engaging in it.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

26 Comments

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By Move on (anonymous) | Posted September 11, 2014 at 13:49:04

Flip-flopping Clark has ZERO credibility on this issue. He is following the Rob Ford approach to transit planning: say anything to get elected even if you throw the rest of the city under the bus (pun intended).

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By True (anonymous) | Posted September 11, 2014 at 13:56:50 in reply to Comment 104447

So true. He seems to be all about Stoney Creek which would be fine if he was running for Mayor of Stoney Creek. Hey Brad, there's a city west of the red hill valley.

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By Clarper (anonymous) | Posted September 11, 2014 at 14:06:45

What's with Clark? Cynical politics, robocalls, breaking election sign rules. It's like he's a Harper/Harris Conservative or something.

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By TheDude (registered) | Posted September 12, 2014 at 04:41:37 in reply to Comment 104449

Sidenote on signs. I started seeing Ejaz Butt signs appearing in my area on the west mountain. Isn't it too early for lawn signs?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 11, 2014 at 14:34:20

All-day GO is popular with people who occasionally visit parts of the GTA and never take the bus - IE most of suburbia. They imagine that Hamilton's all-day GO is something they will use.

Which it is, once... and then they'll find out what we already know: the GO train is slower than the coach bus to downtown TO, and most of the other stops dump you into a giant parking lot in the middle of suburban sprawl with no respectable way to get around. And then they'll never use it again.

But the idea of better GO service to Hamilton sounds dandy.

It's all about prioritizing things that sound useful instead of things that studies have borne out as actually useful.

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By wat? (anonymous) | Posted September 11, 2014 at 15:25:42

Can someone please put together some He Said, He Said posters so we can print them off!?

Perhaps Bearded Brad vs Clean Shaven Brad.

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By Maroon (anonymous) | Posted September 11, 2014 at 15:56:28

I'm not saying Clark is another Ford or that he should serve the same fate as Ford, I'm not saying that. All I'm saying is, I dislike Clark like I dislike Ford.

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By Boutros Boutros-Ghali (anonymous) | Posted September 11, 2014 at 16:11:37

I dislike Clark like I dislike Bobby B. 'nough said.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted September 11, 2014 at 18:34:40

It's seriously time for someone to shove all of this in his face on a Q&A. I'm betting he'll just cite some "new information" that changed his mind though, without any actual sources.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted September 11, 2014 at 18:58:51

The Clark who now believes claims we will end up on the hook for "millions if not hundreds of millions of dollars" in capital costs for LRT

Huh? I see from this Metrolinx backgrounder that LRT costs $35-40 million per km. Perhaps Clark got confused and flashed back to when he was Mike Harris's Transportation Minister and thought 100% provincial funding was coming out of his budget.

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By CaptainKirk (anonymous) | Posted September 12, 2014 at 00:54:07

All day GO expansion to Hamilton's James N station will cost over $2B, over double the cost of LRT. Which has greater benefit for the city? Which has the potential to be transformative?

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2014 at 06:08:47 in reply to Comment 104470

Where did you get the $2B number? The Province priced the all-day GO train expansion at $178 million to build, with the City contributing no capital directly but making an annual contribution to the GO expansion fund through development charges.

Bonus Brad Clark quote from the article:

The councillor, who authored a motion Wednesday calling on the province to commit cash to Hamilton's proposed light rail projects, also said he fears the city has "traded" LRT funding for GO cash.

"It shouldn't have to be one or the other," Clark said.

2011 Brad Clark is right.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2014-09-12 06:12:19

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By George (registered) | Posted September 12, 2014 at 07:23:17 in reply to Comment 104473

"Murray says full-day GO will have to wait until the stretch of track between Hamilton >and Aldershot is ready, and that could be another couple of years after the Pan Am >games.

“That’s expensive. We’re talking $2 billion of investment to buy the track, upgrade >the track and to get the equipment.”

http://www.chch.com/james-go-station-wor...

It's also mentioned in the video

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By TheDude (registered) | Posted September 12, 2014 at 04:54:54

The LRT flip-flop is confusing, but as has been repeated here, it looks like pandering to an older, more prone to vote, base.

Just three years ago, Clark was adamant that there was no business case for all-day GO train service and that Hamilton would be crazy not to hold the Province to their promise of full capital funding for LRT. Now he has reversed his position on both issues.

3 years is a long time. 3 years ago, I wasn't married, I didn't own a home, was in a different job, etc. I don't know that it's fair to play it off that way, as lots of things happen during 1095 days.

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By bikehounds (anonymous) | Posted September 12, 2014 at 07:42:17 in reply to Comment 104472

3 years may be a long time in a person's love life, but it is NOT a long time in transportation planning for a city. The only thing that's happened in the past 1095 days is that passenger demand along the B-line has increased, and developers have showed a rising interest in downtown Hamilton. Seems to me like the time for LRT ripens day by day while at the same time, career politicians like clark somehow grow even more blind to the needs of this city.

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By TheDude (registered) | Posted September 12, 2014 at 21:49:50 in reply to Comment 104477

Disagree. Let's play devil's advocate for a while...

Let's say that council was given one set of numbers several years ago. Let's say that since then, Mississauga has almost completed their rapid transit, which they have. I drive by it daily on my way to and from work. Again, I don't claim to have the stats, but let's say like most provincial projects, it's behind schedule and over budget. So, he stops to check the numbers again. And finds it's going to cost a lot more than was initially quoted. Now, the rest of the (lower) city councillors are saying "ahead at all costs!" but he stops to think about what the real cost is and if it's actually the right choice. No harm in changing your stance, and it takes a big person to do so (pun intended).

Now, I'm not sure I believe all that, and it may well be that his donor base is against it, or that his Conservative sensibilities are kicking in again. Who knows? Certainly not me. Either way I won't be voting for Mr. Clark.

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By jason (registered) | Posted September 12, 2014 at 11:14:53 in reply to Comment 104477

agreed. The personal life v researched transit plan comparison doesn't really wash.
It shouldn't surprise anyone that a) a seasoned politician would say whatever necessary if they think it will earn a few more votes, and b) that there is still a deadbeat group to pander to in the outlying areas who would happily vote to keep Code Red dirt poor forever if it means more roundabouts, highways and box stores in their areas.

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By TheDude (registered) | Posted September 12, 2014 at 21:50:41 in reply to Comment 104486

I'm not sure that your hyperbole and wild absolutes are accurate here - anyone who seriously believes "the outlying areas who would happily vote to keep Code Red dirt poor forever if it means more roundabouts, highways and box stores in their areas" needs to give their head a shake!

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By PublicSpacePete (registered) | Posted September 12, 2014 at 11:57:33

Politicians do not pander to voters but pander to donors. Mr. Clark has been nominated as the elite/business/developers candidate and Mr. Ferguson will get his turn next time. IMHO, all day Go is a red herring to keep useful public transport from happening and the current plan of sprawl/highways/development continuing so the donors can continue to become richer. Some big money is flowing here.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2014 at 12:26:32 in reply to Comment 104487

It costs $200,000 to run a mayoral election properly in Hamilton. That's seriously not a lot of money for a decently large company.

Buying a mayoral election would be a very inexpensive proposition.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2014 at 13:53:59 in reply to Comment 104489

Except that there's a hard $750 limit to how much an individual can donate to a campaign. It's not possible for a large company to bankroll a mayoral campaign - you need lots of donors.

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By TheDude (registered) | Posted September 12, 2014 at 21:51:15 in reply to Comment 104494

Except that there's a hard $750 limit to how much an individual can donate to a campaign. It's not possible for a large company to bankroll a mayoral campaign - you need lots of donors.

Or lots of shell corporations!

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By Mark-AlanWhittle (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2014 at 14:46:28

Reminds me of McHattie's flip-flop on the Linc, or Fred's $1o million dollar west-harbor belly-flop. Views change, as reality changes. Does anyone here on RTH ride the bus for daily transportation? That's what I thought, let the down voting begin.

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By positive1@cogeco.ca (registered) | Posted September 12, 2014 at 21:03:45 in reply to Comment 104496

I am a regular RTH reader and I usually bike to work but will drive when I have to and also in the coldest months of the winter. Bus service is poor between my home and work but since the CIty has chosen to use the provincial gas tax money for pothole filling or other non-HSR related improvements, I'm not the least bit surprised. Improving current transit infrastructure and pursuing the LRT are not mutually exclusive goals as some would lead us to believe - right Mr. Mayor? To Mark-Alan Whittle - what exactly are you implying by your question? "Does anyone here on RTH ride the bus for daily transportation? That's what I thought, let the down voting begin". That everyone who reads this blog have to take the bus before reading or commenting? Do you? If not, why not? What is your solution? What vote Mr. Whittle? Did we get to vote on the Red Hill? The Linc. The Aerotropolis? Keeping one way streets for a decade after recommendations to convert them to two way?

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted September 12, 2014 at 16:52:42 in reply to Comment 104496

Daily? No. I bike daily. I used to take the bus, but I don't like to because it sucks.

Hence, I want public transit that doesn't suck.

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By jeffzuk (registered) | Posted September 12, 2014 at 15:46:14 in reply to Comment 104496

Of course there are people on RTH that ride the bus for daily transportation.

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